Could Balcombe-style frack protests be seen here soon?

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Anti-fracking campaigners from the Fylde have welcomed the high profile protests being carried out in Balcombe, West Sussex – and said they could happen in Lancashire.

They say the media scrum and huge police presence near Cuadrilla Resources’ test drill site have raised awareness among the public about fracking.

Gayzer Frackman, third left with other Fylde anti-fracking campaigners visiting Balcombe to show support for the protestors in West Sussex. Below: Activists at Cuadrilla's offices.

Gayzer Frackman, third left with other Fylde anti-fracking campaigners visiting Balcombe to show support for the protestors in West Sussex. Below: Activists at Cuadrilla's offices.

Although some groups said today they did not condone the protest stunts such as protestors blockading Cuadrilla’s offices in Lichfield, others have been down to support peaceful protests.

Members of Frack Free Fylde travelled down to the Reclaim the Power protest camp to offer support against fracking – the recovery of gas and oil from deep-lying shale rock by injecting water and chemicals at high pressure.

Gayzer Frackman from the group said similar protests could happen in Lancashire.

He said: “We have been down there for the past three weekends to show support and offer our evidence about fracking. It could happen here in the future.

Activists at Cuadrilla's offices.

Activists at Cuadrilla's offices.

“It has been a totally peaceful protest but the policing has been heavy-handed. About 80 per cent of the people down there, the members of the community, support the protesters. They have the benefit of seeing what has happened up here and are reacting quickly.”

Cuadrilla has been carrying out test drilling for natural gas across Lancashire.

It is currently applying to drill a new shale gas exploration well close to Clifton Business Park in Freckleton.

The company has drilled at sites at Grange Hill near Singleton, Preese Hall, near Weeton, Becconshall near Banks and Anna’s Road, Westby. Only the Preese Hall site has been hydraulically fractured.

Philip Mitchell, from the Blackpool Green Party, said the escalating protests may be a reaction against Governmental support for fracking.

He said: “Many residents are against local fracking and feel that mainstream politics and processes will desert them, and would welcome protests and peaceful attempts to stop gas drillers’ activities. I think direct action groups have a longer history in the South East. I’ve not personally been involved, but I believe the evidence for the need to stop this industry on the grounds of global warming impacts alone is enough to fully justify any non-violent action, and that more people will become interested in that approach.”

Mike Hill, from Defend Lytham, said he believed the lack of similar protests in Lancashire were due to inertia and lack of awareness.

He said: “I also think that people here have been taken in by the Government saying that fracking is safe and will be strictly regulated. However they are scrapping regulation rather than increasing it.

“I would not condone the type of protests we see in Balcombe but it has put the issue on the media radar.

“Balcombe is near London and the media people can get there in an afternoon. That coverage has brought in more protesters which in turn brought in more police.”

Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “Cuadrilla has consistently maintained that most people in the UK are open-minded about this issue.

“From our own experience in Lancashire, the more people hear about and talk about shale gas, the more informed they are about its advantages.”

Cuadrilla condemns ‘illegal’ direct action

A Cuadrilla spokesman said today that there were no plans to alter their proposals to explore for gas in Lancashire despite the protests in the south which escalated yesterday.

The spokesman said: “Protesters forced their way into our Lichfield office, harassed our staff and chained themselves to filing cabinets.

“We condemn all illegal direct actions against our people and operations.

“Despite the stresses, the morale of our people in Lichfield, Balcombe and in Lancashire is high.

“Our people and the teams that support us are doing a magnificent job.

They know that what we are doing is legal, approved, and safe, and that shale gas is essential to improve our energy security, heat our homes, and create jobs and growth.

“Cuadrilla is rightly held accountable for complying with multiple planning and environmental permits and conditions, which we have met and will continue to meet. “Clearly we are held to one set of legally enforceable standards while some protesters believe that they can set out and follow their own.”

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